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Advocates Call On Biden Administration to Restore the U.S. Refugee Resettlement System and Protect Iraqi and Afghan Allies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

January 19, 2022


Spencer Tilger


Access an audio recording of the press call HERE

On a press call held earlier today, advocates and experts discussed the state of the U.S. refugee resettlement system one year into the Biden administration. 

Speakers discussed how after years of obstruction, urgent action is required to restore the U.S. refugee resettlement system and ensure that the Biden Administration can live up to its goal of resettling 125,000 refugees this fiscal year. In particular, advocates called on the administration to fulfill its promise to protect Iraqi and Afghan allies. 

The call included a pre-recorded message from an Iraqi client of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), who remained anonymous for his safety. He said: I applied to resettle in the United States as a refugee through the P-2 Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis because my work with the United States army in Iraq put my life at risk, and I have been waiting seven years for a decision in my case. I sacrificed for the U.S. government and feel betrayed by this treatment in return. I have lost so much during these years: my home, my books, and most importantly, the ability to be with my wife and children through precious milestones in their lives. There is no light at the end of this tunnel for us right now. We cannot spend our lives chasing a mirage. On behalf of myself, my family, and everyone else in my situation, I ask the Biden Administration to fix this broken U.S. refugee program.” 

Other speakers included Lacy Broemel, Policy Analyst, IRAP, who said: “The U.S. refugee program today stands at a crossroads. While the Biden administration has raised the refugee cap to 125,000 and promised reforms, the unfortunate truth is that the U.S. will not even reach a fraction of that number in actual admissions without substantial and timely changes. Five months after the haphazard U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, we are concerned that the tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans who remain trapped in Afghanistan or neighboring countries will be stuck in the same administrative limbo that has afflicted Iraqi allies and their families for more than a decade. We know President Biden understands the great importance of welcoming refugees, and we hope the second year of his administration will show real commitment to enacting that vision.”

Basma Alawee, We Are All America National Campaign Manager, National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), said: “While my family and I have been fortunate enough to be granted protection, tens of thousands of my Iraqi siblings continue facing administrative limbo while their lives are in jeopardy. These backlogs raise concern, especially as there has been a rise in Afghan cases getting caught in identical processes, indicating a similar fate to another one of our allies. We Are All America is prepared to organize our communities to ensure that the Biden administration fulfills its promises. Iraqis and Afghans cannot wait indefinitely for a pathway to safety; we need reform and transparency now. The actions taken today to protect Iraqi and Afghan refugees will pave the way for how our country responds to those seeking refuge and safety in the future.” 

Chris Purdy, Director, Veterans for American Ideals (VFAI), noted: “I got into this work after serving in Iraq in 2011. Over this past year, veterans have been asking the president to give immigration the attention it deserves. We in the veteran community believe our country is not living up to the values we upheld while in uniform. Veterans groups in the months leading up to the withdrawal were warning the Biden administration of the dangers posed by the rushed exit. We pleaded with officials to expedite the relocation of our wartime allies. Those please fell on mostly deaf ears, and as a result, our Afghan allies continue to be hunted and targeted for their service to the United States. Since then, we’ve worked 24/7 to try to fix the mess the country left behind and stepped up when our country and allies needed us. We have continued to work to provide safe passages for those leaving the country. We know more needs to be done. We must do better. The Biden administration has said over and over that we are in a battle for the soul of our nation, but America’s heart beats through the hard work of immigrants and refugees who come to this country. We must do more to welcome Afghan refugees.”

Katherine Rehberg, Vice President for Programs, Church World Service (CWS), stated: “We couldn’t be more excited and supportive of IRAP’s report on the 22 recommendations for 2022. It really is a critical time for the U.S. refugee admissions program, not only rebuilding after years of decline, but also as we take stock of the refugee regime’s strengths and weaknesses, and where there are opportunities for system reform. What is urgently needed is for both the policy and operational changes to be made that would make this system more responsive to humanitarian need, more nimble, and more sustainable. Specifically, it is important that the U.S. commit to expanded resettlement capacity both domestically and overseas. We have seen an immense and encouraging swell of support from all elements of society to support Afghans arriving in the United States. We would like to see the U.S. administration continue to commit to fostering, building, encouraging, and supporting the clear will of the American people to welcome refugees and to strengthen the U.S. refugee admissions program for the future.”

And Taif Jany, Director of Policy and Practice, Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), said: “The reality is that policy is personal. Everything that we are discussing today will create real impact for real families, many of whom dedicated their lives to support the US government and our troops on the ground to build bridges and create a brighter future for all. As a new American, I can tell you that the benefits of having more welcoming immigration policies extend beyond those who are directly impacted. Economically, socially, and academically, Immigrants and children of immigrants contribute so much to the wellbeing of our society.”

Listen to an audio recording of today’s press call: HERE

Read IRAP’s P-2 Direct Access Program for U.S.-Affiliated Iraqis explainer: HERE

Read the January 2022 report from IRAP: “Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the Future: 22 Recommendations for 2022